Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Of sand castles and houses made of cards

Like some other blogs I've read today, I wasn't sure what I felt like talking about. But my WIP is on my mind, and there is much still to do in revision. I had taken these photos a month or two back and was thinking of how I don't want my novel to be a castle made of sand, washed away with the next tide. Or like a house built of cards, toppled by a breeze.
I want to write something substantial that withstands whims and trends, that more than one crop of readers might savor and pass along to others.
So how do I accomplish this?
My first thought is universality--a story that speaks to almost anybody by its authentic human experience. Keep it real. Keep it honest. So I guess one needs to read through with a BS meter to strike anything that doesn't ring true. Does anyone have a second-hand BS meter for sale?
Love is important, too. Romantic love, star-crossed lovers, triangles, of course, grab people where it counts. But any form of love that pulls the reader in emotionally creates a long-lasting impression. Create relationships that matter, but make them fragile because love should never be taken for granted.
Resilience and courage. People crave seeing others persevere through tribulation and come out stronger. Despite frailties, give characters nobility and hope. But make them work for it--it shouldn't come easy. Because, well, then we'd all be natural-born heroes, right?
Okay, so maybe this is simplistic. I don't know. I'm kind of Muddle Me today. But if you've ever thought about this, do you have any suggestions for what qualities give a story longevity, make it truly memorable?


Abby Annis said...

Great post!!

I agree completely with this line, "universality--a story that speaks to almost anybody by its authentic human experience". Being relatable to a wide range of people is the most important thing, in my mind.

This is kind of a different angle, but I think you need to be careful what you put into your book. A lot of trendy books contain pop culture references could easily date them and make them less desirable down the road. That's my opinion anyway.

Bish Denham said...

I agree with Abby. One has only to look at the books that are still being published 100 years later to get an idea of what kind of stories survive and stand the test of time. They aren't about pop culture. They are about the human condition. Love, hope, fear, death, joy, suffering and all the other emotions we are subject to.

Natalie said...

Not a clue! But I like Abby's idea--less pop culture references and more universal truths.

Sarah Wylie said...

I'm also with Abby.
I always like to read about stories "larger" than myself. So, like, epic battles. True love. Unforgettable/strong characters.
But at the same time, some of my favorite books probably won't be remembered by most people in a few decades -- but I will remember them. Especially if they mean something to me.

storyqueen said...

I think the rule of opposites applies here. By that I mean, the more specific you make your story, the more general appeal it has. Kind of like a beautiful poem. It might be about the simplest thing (the cold plums in the fridge a la William Carlo Williams) but the universal sigh of "Yes, I know what you mean" can be felt with each reading.

Think about amazing books you love. I bet you that they are so specific about one thing or another. When a book tries to be too broad, well, it only tells a story that's been told. It is the narrow lens that illuminates.

Yeah, I've been sitting in meetings all day...too full of thoughts and words.


Anna C. Morrison said...

In my humble opinion, anything honest and straight from your heart will stand the test of time. Instead of questioning what to write, just let it flow. Your soul knows what to pour onto the page for yourself and for future generations.

As an aside, I looked for you on Editor's Day and checked nametags and looked around, but couldn't find you. ~pout~

MG Higgins said...

I love fragile characters who find their inner strength by the end of the story. I like rooting for them.

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

Abby: Thanks! I agree on pop culture unless it is used to specifically set time and place. This WIP is historic, so no danger with this one.

Bish: The human condition. Yes, that's the trick to do that right.

Natalie: :)

Sarah: I like that--larger than ourselves. That's a good way to think of it.

Shelley: Hey, you're going deep here. But I can see the danger in being too broad. Don't try to tell the whole history of the human race, right?

Anna: I am so sorry I didn't make Editor's Day. I've cut back on what I'm attending for awhile. My crit buddy Nancy O'Connor was there. Do you know her? I'm really sorry I missed you. :(

Melissa: Oh, I like that about the fragile characters. Can you give me an example of one or two that have stuck with you?

Tabitha Bird said...

Yes, I think about this all the time. Somedays writing what truly matter is all I think about. Magic that can be written and begs to be passed along. Writing that moves and calls and opens doors. That is what I dream of. Raw honesty. The truth of the human experience. These are the things that call across generations and even across genre gaps. Best luck. Pull the writing from deep places and you'll at least inspire yourself if not those around you.

Unknown said...

I dont have the magic answer, but I know the answer is to discover the magic. That usually comes from the heart. So, write from the heart. The timeless magic will follow. :)

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

Tabitha: You and Suzanne are masters (mistresses?) of raw honesty. I am always stunned when I read your blog, and it inspires me to bravery.

Karen: I think you know a thing or two about magic. Thanks for the advice, it's a good way to proceed.

Shelli (srjohannes) said...